An “Essay on Man” is a popular poem that was published between 1733 to 1734 by Alexander Pope. This poem was made as an effort to either rationalize or “justify the means of God to man”. Let us know more about this poem, its objective, and significance in detail.
An Essay on Man, is a kind of a philosophical essay that was written in gallant couplets by Alexander Pope. The poem was later perceived to be a part of the larger work that was not accomplished by Pope. The essay is designed as a component of a system of ethics that he wishes to express in his poetry.
The poem comprises of four epistles. In the 1st epistle, it tells about the relations between the universe, and the human. In the 2nd epistle, it tells discusses about humans as individuals. In the 3rd epistle, it addresses the relation between a society, and an individual, and in the 4th epistle, it questions the power of an individual for happiness.
An “Essay on Man” helps people to describe the law and order of the universe with respect to a hierarchy of being. Due to the reasoning ability that a man possesses, he is placed above plants, and animals in the hierarchy. An “Essay on Man” has got a lot of popularity and admiration from everyone throughout Europe.
Voltaire has called it the very beautiful, useful, and the most inspirational moralistic poem that has ever been printed in any language. In the year 1756, Rousseau appreciated the poem by writing it to Voltaire and stating that the poem softens all ills and instills patience in us.
When seen the poem in its entirety, it has been seen that an Essay on Man is a kind of an affirmative verse of faith. According to the poem, when the life seems to be pattern less, and messy to man, then it is a divinely ordered plan that is made by God to teach something bigger, and valuable to a person.
The “Essay on Man” is a kind of a philosophical poem that is written in the form of heroic couplets. The poem got published in the year between 1732 and 1734. Written by Pope, he intended the entire poem as a focus of any planned system of morals that can be put into the world in a poetic form.
It is a section of a large work that was planned by Pope but he could not live to execute it. The poem is his attempt to validate, as Milton had tried to justify, the means of God to Man, and a caution that man is not that he believes himself to be the focus of all things. Not just Christian, this Essay forms an implicit assumption saying that man is unregenerate, and fallen. He must pursue his own salvation.
The “Essay” has a total of 4 epistles that are addressed to the Lord Bolingbroke. It is derived to some extent from fragmentary philosophical writings of Bolingbroke, and from ideas that are expressed by the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury. Pope demonstrates that irrespective of how imperfect, inscrutable, full of evil, and complex you find the Universe, it functions in a rational manner as per the natural laws. The universe is perceived to be a whole, and an ideal work of God.
People find it imperfect as their views are constrained by frail intellectual, and moral capacity. The conclusion of this poem is that we should learn to admit our place in the “Great Chain of Being”. We acquire a middle state that lies below the place of the angels, and above the beasts. This position provides you to lead a righteous, and happy life.
Epistle I talk about the nature of man. It also discusses about his place in the universe. Epistle II talk about the man as an individual. In Epistle III talk about the relation of man with the human society, political hierarchy, and social hierarchy. Epistle IV talks about the pursuit of man’s happiness in the world. This essay showcases the controversial work of Pope, that has got its own share of appreciation and criticism by people. The theme of the poem appeared to be primarily poetic and not philosophical. G. Wilson Knight commented on the poem saying that it isn’t a “stationary scheme”, but a “dynamic living organism”. It needs to be understood in that way.
The Essay on Man is a positive verse of faith. It tells that all the chaos, and mess in the life is a divine plan. He wants you to come over petty things in life and move towards serving a bigger purpose that we are all born for. In the world of Pope, God exists. He is beneficent. His creation is an orderly place. The small mind of man is incapable of understanding the broad concept of universe, and so experience only the basis of his understanding, and partial truths. He must depend on hope, and develop an unshakeable faith in him.